2022 in review!

Time has done some funny things this year, hasn’t it? It’s sped by, and yet hung heavy at times. Perhaps we are all still in pandemic recovery. I heard it described as a collective ‘languishing’- and although I do feel like I’ve done a lot of languishing on my couch, trawling through my photos has encouraged me to relive some favourite moments…

First up, I was so lucky to have been invited to take part in the international Connect and Collaborate residency at beautiful Moniack Mhor. Not only is it the perfect place to rest, recuperate and write, it also gave me the opportunity to make friends with some amazing people from across the globe. Here is Moniack Mhor in sunset splendour and some of my co-conspirators lost in the woods! (Nadine Aisha Jassat, Gemma Rovira Ortega & Carly Brown).Not forgetting the all important glass of red wine poured by my Moniack pals after I finished the first draft of my next novel Waterbound! (Look out for more news on that in 2023)

In the summer, Angus Writers’ Circle had the chance to undertake a group residency in Arbroath Abbey’s New Scriptorium, as described in a previous post. Here is an image of my Tree Folklore Workshop, inspired by the humble Arbroath Pippin!

I was very excited to be invited by Fife Writes to deliver two creative writing workshops for Book Week Scotland. One was online and one was IN-PERSON! Myself and my lucky hat travelled to beautiful St Andrews, which was a real novelty after the lockdown years. Here I am, with said hat, at the old harbour…

There was also that fiery trip to Bloody Scotland! Again, so good to be back in-person. I think we’ve all been caught between longing to socialise and veering towards recluse-dom. I know I have, but once you’ve levered yourself from the couch you realise what you’ve been missing!

Thanks to a generous award from Creative Scotland, I was able to take part in a third residency (and I thought nothing much had happened in 2022!) in Ireland. Grateful thanks also to the lovely Noelle Harrison at Aurora Retreats for holding such a special place for us all in the Limerick countryside, somewhere close to my heart. Noelle, writing as Anya Bergman, has a stunning novel out VERY soon. Keep an eye out for The Witches of Vardo (Manilla Press). I have read an advance copy and I loved it!

The book I was working on at the Springfield Castle retreat is tentatively entitled The River Takes Her Name (suggested by my fellow retreater Petra!)

Legend has it that the ancient goddess Sionnan ate the Salmon of Wisdom, with its nine hazelnuts of truth, in order to gain all the knowledge of the world, only to drown in the river that now bears her name. In 1980s Limerick, nurse Anya Kildare has nine pieces of information which, if revealed, could alter the lives of those around her forever.

 If knowledge is power, and power might bring death, how much would you be willing to give away?

Intrigued? I’ll tell you more about that, and indeed Waterbound, my great hope for next year, in a future post, but I’ll leave you with some wonderful images of Ireland and finally, finally, Newcastle Noir, which proved a bright and warm and friendly end to the year (despite the title!)

WISHING YOU ALL THE VERY BEST FOR 2023!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you, one and all!

I love a fascinating fact, and here is one I uncovered at the end of last year. I’d been delivering a four-week Writing For Wellbeing course, and as I was scouring Yuletide folklore for some lovely writing prompts, I though why not skip ahead to the New Year and take a closer look at our old friend Janus! I remember hearing his story at school, that he’d leant his name to January, with one of his faces looking into the year just gone, the other into the coming year.

Looking from 2021 to 2022…

As a god of time and transitions, Janus didn’t have a “face for the present” because the present IS a place of transition, which is something to think about when you feel ‘stuck’, either physically or mentally. The Romans didn’t view the present as a time in and of itself – just as something of a passing place between past and future.

That really resonates with me. We are always being encouraged to be ‘fully present in the moment’, which I actually find quite difficult. My brain is always speeding ahead! But what if the ‘present’, as the Romans believed, is merely a drifting boat, bearing you gently to the next exciting destination?

May all your destinations be exciting this year! If you would like to join me for four weeks of looking at the world in a slightly different way (and writing about it!), my next Writing Just For You course begins on January 24th. Here is the programme:

WRITING JUST FOR YOU #3

Each week, we will have a chat about the theme of the week, a mini-meditation or moment of mindfulness to get you in the creative groove and 20 minutes of free writing to a themed prompt. I will also suggest an Artist’s Play Date for you to try at home.

Week 1: Ice. (24/1/22)

This week’s theme is ‘cold snap’. How do you feel when the temperature drops?!

Week 2: Light. (31/1/22)

Candlemas falls on Feb 2nd, and has many interesting customs associated with ‘bringing in the light’. How can you bring light to your own life?

Week 3: Fire (7/1/22)

‘Warming the cockles of your heart.’ This idiom derives from the belief that the heart was shaped like a cockleshell, implying it is soft on the inside with a tough shell! What makes your heart melt?

Week 4: Love (14/1/22)

February 14th is, of course, St Valentine’s Day! We’ll be looking at the folklore surrounding ‘Valentines.’

Interested? Just drop me a line and I’ll save you a place. The course fee is £55. Payment details and Zoom link will be sent the week before.

Looking forward to seeing you!

Sandra

Keeping (relatively)positive

Previously, I’ve written about my thoughts as a writer in lockdown, when I was finding it difficult to write. My muse had obviously been scrolling through it, and decided to take pity on me, because the drive to create has returned to some degree. My fourth novel Sight Unseen has been published into a strange, sad new world. I want to take this opportunity to thank Agent Jenny, as always, and my publisher Birlinn/Polygon. Everyone there is working so hard in difficult circumstances to get those books out.

We were aided GREATLY by Kelly Lacey, Jacky Collins (AKA Dr Noir!) and a legion of fantastic bloggers and influencers who managed to get the Sight Unseen word out. If you need help with your literary endeavours, please look up Love Books Tours and Honey and Stag Literary Events. Heartfelt thanks to them all.

So, Book 2 of the Sarah Sutherland series Last Seen (set partially in India) and an outline for Book 3 (set in places  I think I’ll be able to get to) are now complete. I’m just thinking about all those shiny new books that were published this summer, sitting hopefully in bookshops nationwide, longing for readers. I also know how difficult it is to persuade ourselves to try and resume a ‘normal’ life.

With the latest new restrictions, life looks set to shrink even further. I go for a coffee with friends just once a week, but since we’re from four separate households, that looks likely to be a casualty. However, being home alone has led to some interesting observations. While I’m missing all the literary events I used to attend, I’m enjoying a break from the almost-constant anxiety of speaking in public and ‘putting myself out there’. I think this will resonate with many writers, yet when we talk about mental health, we tend to skim over this. I always tell my creative writing students that sharing your work with an audience is ‘something you’ll get used to’ because that’s what we tell ourselves, but writers are generally a shy, insecure bunch. As much as I miss the interaction with readers, this breathing space has definitely made me feel a lot calmer.

I don’t have any answers for what’s happening to us, but I’ll share with you some of the little things that are getting me through this and it might help you too:

  • That first gulp of fresh air whenever you take of your face mask
  • Sitting in my porch and pretending it’s a conservatory
  • Fairy lights/lights in bottles/tealights. In Reykjavik, they chase away the dark with lights in trees, lights on the water. My memories of Iceland are not of dark and cold, but of golden reflections.
  • Tea (always and obviously) in a favourite mug, and taken outside. It’s portable.
  • Watching the sea instead of a screen.
  • Going out for a walk just as it’s getting light.
  • Hearty east coast dwellers who greet you with ‘Quite fresh, today!’ when we’re in the middle of a named storm.
  • Other people’s dogs. They look so happy.
  • Discovering really cool stuff in my neighbourhood.
  • Doing yoga/meditating online (Huge thanks to the Space to BE community- I recommend)
  • Experiencing cacao (look it up, creatives, or do a course with Alchemy of Love)
  • Friends and family checking in with each other
  • Love/hate Zoom. It’s a lifeline, but wearying, and no substitute for real people in real settings.

Wishing you joy in the little things today xx